1917 – Trench works

JJ Mac Case Study

The Challenge

In March 2019 JJMac received a call regarding excavating a tunnel in a quarry. Not a lot more information was supplied, just “can you meet on site”?

We attended site and were greeted by some people from a company called Storyworks who were working on a new WW1 movie and that we had to remain silent about the movie and the works involved.

The tunnel was to be located with a chalk cliff face. We made an attempt at the tunnel through traditional hand digging method but the chalk was too unstable and we terminated the works.

The Solution

JJMac had to come up with a solution as this tunnel features largely in the movie and it had to go ahead.

We design a new strategy by way of reducing the cliff face and constructing the tunnel in-situ from steel and then replacing the cliff face. As the cliff was chalk we would struggle to retain the face.

So we designed a Gabion retention solution to achieve the cliff face and then the plasterers and set crews at Storyworks set about recreating the cliff face from plaster which looks amazing in the movie.

The Challenge – Trenches Bovingdon

Whilst working on the tunnel, we were asked if we could advise and provide some help with the trenches for the project.
We visited the site where works were underway but the contractor on site was battling the elements with rain and sleight. They were using small machines and were falling behind programme

The Solution

We decided to get involved in the project and mobilised our crews to work on the trenches at Bovingdon Airfield. There are the trenches in the early part of the movie. We also helped to create ‘No Man’s Land’ which was a massive task with excavations up to 10.0m deep and 40.0m wide craters.

The Challenge – Trenches Salisbury Plains

Once our client Storyworks saw the works we done on the trenches at Bovingdon, they invited us to Salisbury to discuss trenches on the Ministry of Defence lands on Salisbury Plains.

We mobilised additional crews for Salisbury as the crews at Bovingdon still had alot of work to do and helping the set crews with finishing works and earthworks.

The Solution

We are awarded 4 areas of works at Salisbury. Each area had a unique set of constraints from Archaeological Watching brief to Preservation of organic farmland meadows. We could only traffic one side of the trench to preserve the grass as this featured near the end of the movie where Schofield runs towards the command post.

We excavated some 2.0km of trenches and shifted approx. 10,000m3 of material to stockpiles and returned to site once filming was complete for backfilling.

It was an amazing project to work on and all our personnel thoroughly enjoyed the experience.


Please click the link below to download the 1917 Trench Works case study PDF